Tuesday, August 14, 2012

belated, in the present tense:


In the Present Tense

a Critical Look at our Immediate Culture

Ken Weathersby - Strange Fit at Pierogi 
I don’t know how or why Ken Weathersby got to the point in his life and career where he’s making the work that he makes, and for the record, I don’t particularly care; I’m just really happy to be able to stare at it and be equal parts confused and transfixed. Strange Fit at Pierogi is the second full exhibition of Weathersby’s that I’ve seen, the other having been his 2010 Pierogi exhibition Perfect Mismatch. Seeing these, plus coming across the few other pieces here and there, is how I’ve gotten to experience this work. The particular tropes in place that I find fascinating are the overabundance of structure and support creating a tension between finished surface and a rigid yet organic outgrowth of materiality, all used in a format which reinforces what the other is doing. Then there are interventions, both overt and subtle, through which Weathersby has managed to create an interesting and diverse body of work that tackles notions of the seen and unseen, construction, presentation, recto and verso, along with a slight nod -intentional or otherwise-  to crafts such as model making.

Granted, to suggest something as “organic” for works that are so clearly based in geometry, materiality, and systemization may on the surface appear dubious. The way in which Weathersby’s paintings appear to develop, while paying respect to the structures of Sol LeWitt, the reversed canvasses of Johns, and architectural models among other things, share just as much with crystallization or even balloon-frame construction methods gone awry; which, in their own right, are forms of naturally organized growth. In addition to generating an interesting discussion about the relationship of the structure and surface, Weathersby subverts and mirrors events within his pieces to thoroughly dissect the object of painting. Overmining the recursive lattice used to buttress the “image area” through a selective vocabulary of wood, linen, and acrylic paint, Weathersby takes order and precision to a whole other level. At their most basic, Weathersby’s artwork is predominantly either a black and white gridded pattern, or a series of red/yellow/blue gridded patterns rendered tightly on the surface, which are then meant to be cannibalized, cut into, reversed, amputated or re-attached as he sees fit. Often the re-attachments can employ this wooden grid-structure which then becomes a very prominent fixture in support of its blasphemy. These structures therefore become an autonomous element within the works, revealing themselves as more than just support but as appendage, growth, goiter, bandage, armor, housing, prosthesis, scaffold, or prison.

Through these tools Weathersby goes well beyond simply inverting the role of surface and support, to create more than mere visual tension. I’d go so far as to say some of these pieces are even engaged in a no-holds-barred BDSM relationship where the lattice-work of wooden framing structure employed on the reverse, grows out and around to thoroughly encapsulate the traditional painting surface within its dominant embrace as in 191 (csk). These elements are then frozen in a moment of ecstatic coupling for the creepy voyeur in all of us. But rather than shaming us into turning our gaze elsewhere, we are compelled to keep looking, waiting to see if one or the other element will utter the “safe word”. We are dumbstruck and in awe that these works have managed to allow us in to witness their depravity, while rapt with attention to see which part might finally succumb. All the while questioning the nature of its relationship with itself, and our relationship to it.

We stare, trying to dissect the actions of these materials, trying to discern a function that these forms may be following. Wanting to unravel the idiosyncrasies of Weathersby’s exploration, I’ve tried to take in the whole of the exhibition, which, in addition to the strange outgrowths of structure, we come across extractions, and vignettes. These works reveal much about the history and traditions of painting in a way few artists are able to pull off. These pieces are so intrinsically Weathersby’s, and at the same time explore the legacy of materiality and presentation within the painting idiom. Through peculiar miniature dioramas, to interventions of near surgical precision, and structural inversions, we are confronted with not only the object of painting, but the object of viewing paintings. The action of observation becomes a puzzle we need to piece together, just as the independent components of the works are fitted together. Tightly dovetailed elements and ideas are crafted together with such attention to detail in order to create something akin to the Frankenstein Monster of paintings. A glorious aberration of what we have come to expect from painting. Now electrified and thoroughly educated, the creature wears a sport-coat in an attempt to fit into our socially acceptable notions of what paintings should be. I just pray the simple-minded villagers don’t repeat the same mistake with these paintings as they did with Frankenstein’s Monster, but then again, they’re the ones who are stuck being merely human.

Monday, August 13, 2012

see closing paragraph:

Magic Eye: Op Art At Mixed Greens
by New American Paintings Blog August 10, 2012

“They may be cold, they may be as objective as a laboratory experiment, they may say nothing about the spiritual goals that have concerned great art of the past. But they are at least an art, or a craft, truly of our time,” John Canaday wrote in 1965 of MoMA’s op art exhibition “The Responsive Eye.” Mixed Greens’s present show “Post-Op” (on view through August 17th) seems to second that thought for 2012, but this time, without the punch. Since being written-off by many critics, Op’s life has, for a while, popularly been linked more to drug culture andadvertising than the art world. Mixed Greens’s handful of work instead documents the movement’s silent, pervasive seeping-into highbrow culture.

The group show presents a handful of the usual tricks, but with less of the “Responsive Eye’s” pulse and more of a subdued shimmer. (Interns, for instance, won’t need the sunglasses which MoMA’s museum guards wore in 1965.) Most are very familiar, but not-quite-placeable. Rebecca Ward’s horizontal bands strung between walls make moirĂ© patterns; Emilio Gomariz’s “Invisible “O”bject”– an illusion of an invisible spinning donut– references a Photoshop canvas; Suzanne Song’s three-dimensional-looking paintings on wood panel are impeccable. It’s seductive, if a worn bag. As always, the interest wears off once you know how it’s done.

Technically, though, they’re not all Op, but more “Op-adjacent,” as termed by David Rimanelli in a May 2007 issue of Artforum. Rachel Beach’s wood block sculptures resemble one facet of an impossible drawing; Jay Shin’s light projection simply layer geometric shapes; Peter Demos’s grey strips on black paintings bow slightly, but don’t elicit an optical effect. They recall everything from Kusama to “Ghosts in the Machine” to various emerging shows the Lower East Side. While you might have suspected that Op is an island, decisively Op or Not Op, with little discernible path beyond, this show sketches an entire progeny of “Op-adjacent” parents like Josef Albers, Frank Stella, or Agnes Martin. Just to give a sense of the term’s breadth, “Op-adjacent” could encompass contemporary artists from Virgil Marti or Thomas Bayrle, Tomma Abts, Anish Kapoor, Olafur Eliasson, or Doug Wheeler, and on, and on.

It’s possible that the moderated Op FX came from critical response. Greenberg deemed it “novelty.” Rosalind Krauss, finding it didn’t fit her rubric (it “tricks the eye,” like trompe l’oeil), deemed it gimmicky. Critics were troubled by the physical response which Op demanded, some even calling it an “assault.” As Pamela M. Lee notes in her book “Chronophobia,” Op may have been associated with recent trends in fashion of mimicking televised effects, [p 187] or, as she quotes Max Kozloff from the Nation, the “deceiving” “search to untap resources within the impersonal, almost computerized, geometries and visual artifacts of an automated age.” [p 191] Further pushing Op into the “Low” culture realm, Lee writes, it was often associated with fashion and textiles; artist Bridget Riley was frequently discussed in terms of her feminine nature, a “pretty, smiling Irish girl,” according to one reporter.

Artforum linked Op’s recent revival to two major exhibitions from 2007, “Optic Nerve: Perceptual Art of the 1960s” at the Columbus Museum of Art and “Op Art” at the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. Since, we’ve seen them in art fairs and galleries, like Carsten Nicolai’s “MoirĂ©” at Pace in 2010, or even Yayoi Kusama’s present exhibition at the Whitney. Much of the work at this year’s New York art fairs could have been confused with Bridget Riley or early Frank Stella.

So why now? If Op came out of televised effects, as Pamela Lee suggests, then the same could be said now of digital effects, as evidenced in net Op– to cherry pick just a few, work by Laura Brothers,  Travess Smalley, Nicolas Sassoon, Rick Silva, Brandon Jan Blommaert, the aforementioned Emilio Gomariz all come to mind. It helps that physical Op-adjacent works are also very collector-friendly, like dependably beautiful Op-inspired Aeurbachs and Guytons, or even Mark Barrow, Phillipe Decrauzat, and Garth Weiser. Unlike the fun, popular Op, though, these exude emotionless, self-obsessed beauty: the magic combination of utter narcissism and extreme sensitivity only possible from an artist’s touch.

Meanwhile Op’s less collectible brother, kinetic sculpture, has yet to make the same return to Chelsea. The two were closely linked as art forms which, often, weren’t reproducible in photographs and depended on movement. But you can’t exactly pack a Calder in a suitcase; the more masculine kinetic sculpture is clumsier and more breakable, often with a “don’t touch” wall label. Today’s Op maybe be delicate, but it’s anything but clumsy. Decades after Riley’s press descriptions as “eas[y] on the eye,” one can’t help but think of the ethereal snapshots of Tauba Auerbach, which often accompany writing about her work.

But at Mixed Greens, there’s something else which doesn’t translate in a photo: Ken Weathersby’s paintings of minute blue, red, and yellow grids. In one, he’s cut a diamond out of the canvas and rotated it once, so that only the slim edges reveal tiny, mismatched squares. In another, he’s cut out a circle and rotated it slightly. It’s a whisper of a protest: a small change becomes an utter transformation, asking us to stop in our tracks. Instead of wearing a digital aesthetic as fashion, it prescribes a tiny rock in a massive system of cogs. Maybe reticent, and even objective– but that act feels far from cold.

- Whitney Kimball, NYC Contributor